Thirteen students from the Bloustein School’s undergraduate Addictions Policy course, taught by Bloustein part-time lecturer Steven Liga, had the unique opportunity to see the concepts discussed in the course come to life on Thursday, October 9.
The group began the day at the offices of the Advocacy & Management Group in Trenton, NJ, where they met with registered lobbyist Jessica Frasco. The meeting was an eye-opening experience for the students, as they learned the role of a lobbyist from a lobbyist. Ms. Frasco gave students the “real deal” explanation of how laws are actually passed, as opposed to “perfect world” scenarios typically taught. The students came away with the understanding that all causes, including those most noble, benefit from skilled negotiators to plead their cases before the legislature.
Following the meeting, the students were invited to attend Gov. Chris Christie’s press conference at Catholic Charities Mental Health and Recovery Center in Trenton, NJ, which announced the creation of a task force aimed at fighting and preventing drug addiction in New Jersey. Created by executive order, the Facing Addiction Task Force consists of representatives from multiple government departments and other notable figures, including former Gov. Jim McGreevey. It is charged with leading the administration’s response to the current opiate overdose crisis in New Jersey.
At the conclusion of the press conference, Gov. Christie took a few minutes to discuss the role of the new task force with the Rutgers students. In addition to expressing his interest in their coursework, he encouraged them to continue advocating for those struggling with substance use disorders.
The group returned to the Capital to attend that day’s Senate Health Committee hearing on nine of the unprecedented 21 bills introduced in September to address the state’s opiate overdose crisis. The bills proposed would create new policies ranging from requiring all physicians to participate in the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to requiring physicians to inform patients of the potentially addictive properties of opiate medications at the time of prescription.
During the committee hearing, the students were recognized by Health Committee Chairman Senator Joe Vitale, who has visited theAddictions Policy class every semester. The students were also able to see their instructor leading by example, as Mr. Liga was called to testify on behalf of a bill that would require all substance abuse prevention taught in New Jersey schools to be evidence-based. All bills presented were released from committee by nearly unanimous vote.
At the conclusion of the, the students returned to New Brunswick to attend class, where they discussed the whirlwind day of experiencing policy creation from multiple perspectives, as well as launching new discussions related to the field of addictions policy.
Steven Liga is a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Licensed Social Worker, Certified Prevention Specialist, and Certified Clinical Supervisor. He has been an advocate for those suffering from the effects of substance use disorders for over twenty years. He currently serves as the CEO of the local chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and has been teaching for the Bloustein School for nearly ten years, where he helped create the country’s first undergraduate certificate program in Addictions Prevention. Mr. Liga was awarded the Part-time Lecturer Appreciation Award by the Bloustein School in May of 2013.